Track & field fans in our area are really kind of spoiled.
With the edition of the Tim Cook Invitational 11 years ago, and the fact that Chambersburg has been hosting the Mid Penn Championships in recent years, each spring brings five high-caliber high school events to Franklin County.
The Cook started it off last weekend, and this Saturday brings the 90th edition of the Shippensburg U. invitational, which is now called the Jack Roddick - SU High School Invitational. The Mid Penns this year are May 14 at Trojan Stadium, and, as usual, the District 3 Championships (May 20-21) and PIAA Championships (May 27-28) are back at SU's Grove Stadium.
That's a whole lot of excellent competition within a short drive.
This week, there is competition in Class AA and AAA. Area AA teams include McConnellsburg, Fannett-Metal and Mercersburg Academy. The four AAA teams are Chambersburg, James Buchanan, Shippensburg and Waynesboro.
The Roddick annually draws the cream of the crop from District 3, plus other other top programs from around the state and a handful of teams from out of state.
One unique thing about the invite is the addition of the steeplechase event, which is not run in dual meets or the postseason. It is a 2K event that includes jumping over hurdles and through a water pit.
RECORD BREAKERS: Earlier this season, Greencastle-Antrim's Campbell Parker broke the school record in the discus three times during the same dual meet. That seemed pretty rare.
But it happened a second time on Tuesday, when Shippensburg senior Natalie Nye busted the Lady Hounds' pole vault school record three times in a meet against James Buchanan. She had already set the record at 8-4 earlier in the season, then Tuesday, she hit 8-7, 9-0 and 9-6.
She wasn't the only Ship athlete to smash a mark in that meet. Ally Ocker tossed the discus 106-9 to set a school standard.
DISTRICT RANKINGS: The District 3 power rankings are coming into a bit more focus, with many teams around the halfway point of the their seasons.
The sport that's the farthest along is boys tennis, with only a week of play left in the regular season. James Buchanan, despite a recent slump, is right in the thick of the Class AA playoff chase in the No. 5 position.
In boys volleyball, Chambersburg dropped to No. 12 with a loss to Cumberland Valley on Tuesday.
Five Franklin County teams are ranked in softball. In Class AAAA, Chambersburg is No. 2, just behind Lower Dauphin and just ahead of Central York - all three teams have yet to lose. Also in AAAA, Shippensburg is No. 8 and Waynesboro is No. 13. In AAA, Greencastle-Antrim is in the No. 5 spot and James Buchanan is No. 14.
Unbeaten Greencastle holds the top spot in Class AAA baseball, with Ship No. 18. In AAAA, Waynesboro is No. 8 and Chambersburg No. 19.
NEW COACH: Earlier this spring, Mercersburg Academy hired a new coach for girls soccer. Now they have a replacement for boys soccer, Carl Stensland.
He will be asked to fill the shoes of Quentin McDowell, who had quite a run of success for the Blue Storm. Under McDowell for eight seasons, Mercersburg compiled a 92-34-9 record (.722), and the 92 wins ranks second in school history. In 2014, the Blue Storm finished ranked No. 3 in the nation among prep schools.
McDowell has been named Mercersburg's assistant head of school for enrollment.
Stensland has been an assistant coach at Eastern Connecticut State University for the last two years after playing at ECSU and earning all Little East honors for two years.
"I'm honored and humbled to be named the coach at Mercersburg," Stensland said. "I want to thank (athletic director) Rick Hendrickson and the administration for this tremendous opportunity."
Hendrickson said, "Our boys’ soccer program has enjoyed almost unprecedented success over the last several years, driven by Quentin McDowell’s good leadership. Our search was guided by a priority of finding someone who strives to be an excellent educator and who can also lead our program. We’ve found both in Carl."